Ferdinand de Saussure (/sɔːˈsʊr/ or /soʊˈsʊr/; French: [fɛʁdinɑ̃ də sosyʁ]; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss linguist whose ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in linguistics in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics. One of his translators, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics (Oxford University), Roy Harris, summarized Saussure's contribution to linguistics and the study of language in the following way: "Language is no longer regarded as peripheral to our grasp of the world we live in, but as central to it. Words are not mere vocal labels or communicational adjuncts superimposed upon an already given order of things. They are collective products of social interaction, essential instruments through which human beings constitute and articulate their world. This typically twentieth-century view of language has profoundly influenced developments throughout the whole range of human sciences. It is particularly marked in linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology". The fundamental dimensions of linguistic organization introduced by Saussure are still basic to many approaches to how the phenomenon of language can be approached, even though they have naturally been extended and refined considerably over time. Prague school linguist Jan Mukarovsky wrote that Saussure's "discovery of the internal structure of the linguistic sign differentiated the sign both from mere acoustic "things" ... and from mental processes", and that in this development "new roads were thereby opened not only for linguistics, but also, in the future, for the theory of literature. Ruqaiya Hasan argues that "the impact of Saussure’s theory of the linguistic sign has been such that modern linguists and their theories have since been positioned by reference to him: they are known as pre-Saussurean, Saussurean, anti-Saussurean, post-Saussurean, or non-Saussure".
Ferdinand Mongin de Saussure was born in Geneva in 1857. His father was Henri Louis Frédéric de Saussure, a mineralogist, entomologist, and taxonomist. Saussure showed signs of considerable talent and intellectual ability as early as the age of fourteen. After a year of studying Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and taking a variety of courses at the University of Geneva, he commenced graduate work at the University of Leipzig in 1876. Two years later at 21, Saussure published a book entitled Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indo-européennes (Dissertation on the Primitive Vowel System in Indo-European Languages). After this he studied for a year at Berlin, where he wrote a doctoral thesis on the genitive absolute in Sanskrit. He returned to Leipzig and was awarded his doctorate in 1880. Soon afterwards, he relocated to Paris, where he would lecture on Sanskrit, Gothic and Old High German, and occasionally other subjects. He taught at the École pratique des hautes études for eleven years, during which he was named Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor). When offered a professorship in Geneva in 1891, he returned. Saussure lectured on Sanskrit and Indo-European at the University of Geneva for the remainder of his life. It was not until 1907 that Saussure began teaching the Course of General Linguistics, which he would offer three times, ending in the summer of 1911. He died in 1913 in Vufflens-le-Château, Vaud, Switzerland. His son was the psychoanalyst Raymond de Saussure. Saussure attempted at various times in the 1880s and 1890s to write a book on general linguistic matters. Some of his manuscripts, including an unfinished essay discovered in 1996, were published in Writings in General Linguistics, though most of the material in this book had already been published in Engler's critical edition of the Course in 1967 and 1974. (TUFA)
Saussure's ideas had a major impact on...